Nigeria’s Azuegbulam Wins Africa’s First Invictus Gold Medal

Peacemaker Azuegbulam, 27, poses for a portrait whilst holding the Nigerian national flag at the national stadium in Abuja, on September 23, 2023. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP) TO GO WITH STORY BY PATRICK MARKEY

Peacemaker Azuegbulam lost his left leg three years ago when his Nigerian army unit came under fire from Boko Haram militants in the country’s north.

Now Azuegbulam is an African champion.

Azuegbulam won gold at the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany, last month, becoming the first Nigerian and the first African to do so.

“I feel great to become the first champion in Invictus Games from Africa,” he told AFP in Abuja. “Invictus means unconquered, we are still unconquered because we are still alive.”

The Invictus Games were launched in 2014 by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, himself a veteran, to aid in the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers and women through sports.

The event now includes 23 countries with sports ranging from weightlifting to volleyball and table tennis.

Azuegbulam, 27, is a powerlifting gold medalist who also plays sitting volleyball and other sports.

It has been a painful journey for Azuegbulam.

In October 2020, he was part of an army battalion attacking jihadists in Nigeria’s northeast, where the military has been fighting Islamist insurgents for more than a decade.

Jihadists fired an anti-aircraft gun at Azuegbulam, wounded him and forcing medics to amputate his leg.

“After being injured, I got into a lot of things emotionally, physically, and even mentally, I was thinking a lot of things, I was not myself, it was very tough,” he said.

With the help of local organisation Nigeria Unconquered, he started to become involved in sports recovery for wounded servicemen and veterans and eventually to a team heading to the Invictus Games in September.

Bobby Ojeh, director of Invictus in Nigeria, said Azuegbulam’s gold would bring hope to others and saw more African nations joining the event.

Nigeria’s jihadist conflict in the north has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced more than 2 million more since 2009.

For Azuegbulam, originally from the southeast state of Imo, sports brought him back to life.

“I am recovered now, it is due to sports. Nothing more than you seeing yourself doing something,” he said.

But he said he found more inspiration at Invictus Games from the support of other wounded servicemen and women.

“I have new friends now, I have new family now that can encourage me, advise me and know where to help me,” he said.

After gold at Invictus, the Nigeria champion said he intends to keep on with more sports competitions.

“As it stands now, I am ready. The ability is there I am ready to go further in any sports. Even in the Olympics I am ready,” he said.

“I want to continue in sports. Let me focus on sports and keep on winning.”

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